Conservation groups announced today that they have submitted a challenge to the United States Forest Service’s approval of the Kings River Project (KRP), a massive logging experiment in the Sierra National Forest. The Bush administration approved the logging project despite widespread opposition from leading scientists and wildlife biologists concerned about the experiment’s significant adverse impacts on forest health and wildlife. The complaint charges that in approving the project, the agency violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act.
“This aggressive logging experiment ignores new scientific information, and fails to achieve the project’s stated goal of restoring a healthy forest and conducting meaningful research,” said Craig Thomas, Executive Director of Sierra Forest Legacy.
The Kings River Project proposes to conduct logging operations and herbicide treatments on 131,500 acres in the Sierra National Forest over the next 25 years. Phase I of the Project, which is the initial portion approved by the Forest Service, authorizes the treatment of 13,847 acres, which includes the logging of large trees. Numerous experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of California have expressed concern that the Kings River logging experiment would devastate the dwindling Pacific fisher population, which is dependant on old-growth forests.
According to Dr. Reginald Barrett, Goertz Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Management at UC Berkeley, “Given that the fisher’s status in the southern Sierra Nevada is imperiled, the Kings River Project will likely threaten the fisher’s viability, and contribute to its present trend towards extinction.”
The Bush Administration has commissioned a study on impacts of logging to the Pacific fisher in the Southern Sierra, to be released this summer. Critics of the Kings River experiment say that the study should be referenced to inform and guide the restoration and conservation strategy for the area. Conservation groups and scientists also maintain that the objectives of reducing forest fuels and increasing fire resilience can be achieved through prescribed burning with limited thinning, and without the aggressive logging proposed in the KRP.
“We think there is a better way to manage Sierra forests, while working with timber interests to find long-term sustainable solutions,” said Earthjustice attorney George Torgun. “It is unfortunate that the Bush administration has proposed yet another massive logging project that fails to comply with current scientific thinking and environmental law.”
Conservation groups on the complaint include Sierra Forest Legacy, Sierra Club, Earth Island Institute, and California Native Plant Society.
Read the complaint (PDF)